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Moscow threatens to block BBC Russian service Service

Last Updated: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 19:46

Moscow: Russia on Tuesday threatened to block the website of the BBC`s Russian service because it reported an activist`s public appeal to get people to attend a rally mocking Moscow`s annexation of Crimea.

The BBC last week ran an interview with Artyom Loskutov -- an artist who has developed a reputation for performances that gently poke fun of Kremlin policies -- promoting a demonstration in favour of giving Siberia more rights within Russia.

The idea had been making the rounds in Russian opposition circles for weeks because it offered a seemingly legal way to protest Moscow`s seizure of Ukraine`s Crimea peninsula in March.
Russian authorities under President Vladimir Putin often ban opposition rallies and arrest or fine their organisers.

The European Union and United States have imposed punitive sanctions on Russia for the seizure of Crimea and its support for pro-Kremlin insurgents in eastern Ukraine. The sanctions threaten to tilt the already weak Russian economy into recession.

Russia`s Roskomnadzor media watchdog said in a statement that the general prosecutor`s office had earlier asked it to stem the flow of information about the proposed event seeking greater rights for the Siberia region within Russia.

The agency said it had "repeatedly sent" notices to the BBC Russian Service and accused its website of purposely ignoring state orders.

"If the editorial staff of the BBC Russian Service, unlike most other Russian media, continues assuming an unconstructive stance, Roskomnadzor will have no alternative... but to block the BBC Russian Service website."

The regulator had already denied online access to the interview and told Izvestia -- a pro-Kremlin daily that broke the news in its Tuesday edition -- it had the technical means to restrict access to the site across Russia.

Izvestia said regulators believed Loskutov`s call on people to attend the "March for a Federal Siberia" rally threatened "the territorial integrity of the country".

The paper said Roskomnadzor had earlier blocked links to other interviews with Loskutov and forced the respected site to remove material.BBC Russian Service`s acting head, Artyom Liss, said in a blog post that editors had added an introduction to the interview featuring the artist`s own description of the event as nothing more than a "parody" that in no way promoted Siberia`s independence from Moscow.

The Kremlin wants Ukraine transformed into a federation in which Russian-speaking regions in the industrial east have broader rights and are able to establish their own trade and diplomatic relations with Moscow.

First Published: Tuesday, August 5, 2014 - 19:46

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